Challenging Narratives

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASV

My husband had a conversation with someone dear to us that has inspired me to work through some thoughts I’ve kind of held on to for awhile now. I say kind of, because I’ve shared them with him but no one else.

I want to talk about grace– actually– point out a lack of the narrative of grace.

Grace is the difference between Christianity and every other religious belief.

Grace is humbling. Grace removes our efforts from the act of Salvation.

Grace should be easy to demonstrate and practice, a relaxation of criticism and fault-finding. But, in reality, grace is tough.

Grace removes blame. Grace replaces pride and self importance.

Grace removes accusations of other Christians.

We have many, many, many excuses for why it’s not first and foremost in our mindset, actions and view of others.

We look at what others do and we jump to some pretty strong conclusions about them and the condition of their soul, because of their choices that we don’t agree with.

We judge the container of their soul and think we’re in the right.

Only Jesus Saves.

Not doing the “right” “approved” things.

Not going to every church service possible and exhausting ourselves while not being ministered to or admitting what our needs are.

Not having a perfect house.

Not only reading “accepted” books or playing “accepted” games.

We don’t lose our Salvation by watching movies or shows that have garbage in them.

Our part in the Salvation process is confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and believing in our heart that He died on the cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, rose again on the third day, and He ascended into Heaven to wait for the time to return to rule and reign on earth for 1000 years. And then– go out and share the Gospel of peace and grace.

That is our part.

Jesus makes the changes to the desires of our hearts.

He is continuously perfecting us until His return.

Allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about outright sin. Some things are not in our best interest. Some things are stumbling blocks and we know what we need to avoid in order to have the best relationship with Jesus that we can– like we should also do with others.

Before every Christian there is a measure of grace.

Christians should be so full of grace that it coats every word and deed we do.

So– why isn’t the main narrative grace?

Which narrative will you fall for? Accuser of the brethren, or grace?

I want to choose grace.

How about you?

Don’t Forsake The Assembling Of ‘Ourselves’ Together

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Hebrews 10:25.

How many times I’ve heard that– especially when I’ve missed a service at some churches. I’ve lost count!

I’ve exhausted and frustrated myself trying to jump through those hoops that lead to acceptance.

What about when the assembly forsakes it’s own members?

Like me.

When my health started to betray me, and I was going through some honestly scary stuff– where was that assembly then?

Not rallied around me, listening, praying and cheering me on with encouragement.

No. It was silent.

Unless I asked for prayer. Then– it prayed, maybe laid hands on me too– and then it went back to whatever else was going on, and silence for me again.

And let me tell you– I have had need of encouragement!

When I was struggling as a kid and teen with things I couldn’t tell anyone about, I needed that assembly.

When I nearly died, a few times, that assembly has been nowhere around.

When it was up to me to forgive some deeply serious and scarring offenses so I could be free to move on with my life and follow God’s path for me, where was that assembly?

When my dad passed away, and I was numb because our relationship was so screwed up, I needed the assembly.

How thankful I am that I have that close relationship with my Redeemer. He has always given me exactly what I need, when I need it.

But– God made us to need others. The Church isn’t supposed to be like a game of jump-rope where you just jump in and hope you don’t mess up the rhythm or get hit or tripped-up by the ropes. There is supposed to be a mutual-ness to it. Not a sizing-up, or a dressing-down. It’s not one-size-fits-all, and yet it’s supposed to be all for people.

The safest place on earth.

That’s what Church is supposed to be.

I always thought it was like a hospital for the sick, a resting place for the weary, and a nurturing place for neglected outcasts. Welcoming and warm…

I’ve struggled my whole life with fitting in, or feeling like I fit in. We all have our family issues and personality quirks, along with unrealistic expectations.

But when, as a kid, I heard several congregations singing about being “The Family of God”, my mind formed certain expectations that I honestly haven’t felt are unrealistic.

I see others laughing, spending time together, helping one another out. I’ve watched from the outer courts on so many occasions, like the envious little girl watching the big kids skillfully turn the jump ropes while the confident kids jump in and sing rhymes timed with fancy footwork.

So when I heard the song about being family– well– I’ve been looking for the evidence of that.

I’ve wanted to find one where there is a healthy father- figure for me, one where the women are not competitive, judge-mental, or seem to actually ignore and look past me.

I am so tired of the Church acting like the world. Or worse.

I want to find that true Family of God.

One where the assembly does not forsake me.

One where God doesn’t speak to my spirit to tell me the Pastor is my enemy, not my friend.

This is what is on my heart and mind today.

The Spiritual Damage Of Anorexia

I’m a former anorexic and bulimic, reformed through Christ. This post has been a long time coming.

To look at me now you can’t tell I was near death at one point from practicing anorexia.

The Spiritual consequence is what I want to get into with this post. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything about that before.

Fasting is an important part of our growing relationship with God. When we fast unto God, we deny our flesh to set aside our physical wants and needs temporarily to focus on seeking God. We fast to repent, seek God, grow in our faith and understanding, and to actively put Him completely first. The focus is God, not our body, not the avoidance of food.

Anorexia is a tool the devil uses to corrupt that. Fasting not only becomes an obsessive practice of focus on ourselves. Opportunities open for the demonic to gain footholds in our lives, choices, beliefs, vision, perspective and practices. The devil sells us the idea we can obtain perfection.

When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, God sees us as perfect because Christ is in us.

Through the practice of Anorexia, the devil causes deformity within our spirits and our understanding. The devil clouds our vision, and converts our perception to a distorted view and belief system– the belief that our body is the enemy we need to fight against.

The Bible is clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood. We are transformed through the renewing of our minds, new creations through Christ Jesus.

Striving for perfection, we work hard for acceptance and approval of the world. But like a small kid in a game of Keep Away, or Monkey In The Middle, we never lay hold of it. The constant effort steals focus, energy, confidence– reality. The bar gets raised higher. It’s always just… out of…

Reach

God accepts and approves of us because of Jesus. We don’t have to prove our worth to Him because Jesus showed us how much He values us by dying on the cross, and rising up again. We are wanted, welcomed by God.

Jesus made it possible to have acceptance from our Creator. We can have a relationship with Perfection Himself, and He is working to make us the best version of ourselves– for His glory.

We have a choice: We can work really hard for a distorted version of perfection that’s never within reach. Or we can rest in God’s approval and meet Him in the changes He makes as He perfects us His way.

I have experienced both. I prefer God’s way.

Why My Defensiveness Is A Reflex Reaction For Me With Some

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Last night, I had the most wonderful time having dinner, talking, then just listening to a dear friend. I learned so much about her, things I never would have guessed! It’s even easier to see why she is such a beautiful, loving, sincerely kind woman of God.

As is the usual case with me, it’s also hard to not also see that deep contrast between her life and my own.

Again I come face-to-face with why I have often felt a type of rejection from some I’ve hoped to get to know. I’m no Miss Congeniality or Miss Anything.

Often in my lifetime I’ve been left feeling as though I’m not worth people’s time. Some of that is cultural, sure. Some of it is personality-clash. I can be abrasive. I’ve even been described as a “bull in a China shop”.

There aren’t many “boxes” I allow myself to be put in. I tend to fail under heavy-handed expectations. I am as God designed me, also molded from my unique life experiences, which also at times have borne the weight of heavy-handed expectations.

I have learned that not everyone is alike, not everyone does things the same, or reacts to expectation the same way.

I probably will never meet any human’s expectation.

I can only try to meet God’s. And, I fail… All. The. Time.

One of the toughest things to put into practice is listening when it feels like you are not heard by others– that’s where my reaction of defensiveness tries to overtake me.

My life is full of many amazing, even some miraculous testimonies of God’s work.

It’s easy to focus on things that happened because God was not in the circumstances. It’s best to focus on contrasts caused by God’s healing, intervention, love, kindness, miracles and His Mercy.

While the contrast between our lives is somewhat vast, my friend and I have one very important thing that is similar– the knowledge of Who God Is in contrast to who we are and how amazing it is that He loves us.

What Will Greater Things Look and Sound Like?

John 14:12 NASV “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

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As my soul drinks in this song linked above, some questions come to mind. What will the greater things Jesus said we would do, look like and sound like? Can you even imagine what it will be like for God’s Kingdom to come down to earth?

The first time the human race experienced God’s Kingdom coming to earth, most did not recognize it.

Most weren’t even aware. Only those whose hearts were linked with The Creator of all, knew. Only those who had a relationship with the Living God appreciated what God had given to all humanity. Only those who studied the prophecies of the coming Messiah recognized Him and loved Him.

72084292455What does it look and sound like when God’s Kingdom touches earth? Have we ever experienced even a taste of that? I think it looks like Praising and Worshiping in one accord. I think it’s supernatural abilities of demonstrating kindness, love, and forgiveness. Like those times when we are aware of God’s heart for other people, and we seek Him on behalf of them. Or, when telling the truth, even in the hardest of situations, becomes more important than saving face or being right. When the needs of others being met overshadows our worries and fears about our own needs being met, and those who are hurting can rely on those who have hurt in similar way to walk with them, listen and pray for them. That’s what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like, to me.

We look like and act like Jesus.

What will His return look like? What will it sound like?

We know from Scripture, there will be a trumpet sounded from Heaven.  Will everyone be able to hear it, or just those who have been called and chosen by Him? Will there be a rushing sound as there was when the Holy Spirit first was released? Will there be a choir of Angels singing His Praise as He rushes to the aid of His people being persecuted, or about to be persecuted?

He IS returning. Signs He mentioned tell me that it will be soon, and most of us will not even realize it… I pray we do everything we can to make ourselves ready and aware of His return. That we all don’t remain complacent, burdened and buried by the concerns of this life, which tug at our hearts and minds, draining our energy, warring with our focus. That we don’t get, or remain, so consumed in all the things we say we are doing for Him, that we don’t pay attention to Him. That we will be ready for Him. Would we be ready if He returned tonight?

What do you think will greater things look and sound like?

Experience The Rainbow

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“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV

When I took these two pictures, I had no idea they would fit together like this.

I have been fascinated with rainbows for as long as I can remember.

As a little girl I sat in my room alone and watched through my window as others played. I saw a rainbow, and felt God speak into my spirit “I love you”. I had learned from the Bible that God made the first rainbow as a promise to never flood the earth again, but instead washed the earth with the rain.

In the past when under duress, a rainbow would take me instantly back to that first moment God spoke into my spirit, and instant peace flooded me.

At 24 when I entered a crossroads in my life, having sought God for the very first time as to what He wanted to do with the life He gave me, I asked Him for a sign to know, so I wouldn’t doubt His answer and direction.

The sign He gave me, twice, as I began to doubt it the first time, was a rainbow over an American flag. It was the military He was leading me into.

184100_10150323851712456_7034223_nI had a tattoo of that sign from Him inked above my right ankle, to remind me of where I had come from, and where my journey with God started. I knew God before, but I often just kind of stumbled into His path for me. The crossroads served as an opportunity to follow His path with purpose, determination, and confidence that I would know His direction. I left everything behind, shed off my old life, and followed closely after Him, clinging to His Word and His Promises.

Of course I have stumbled as I’ve learned how to walk on His straight and narrow path, many times. It has been a lonely walk at times, and full of fellowship other times. My vision for my life has not always matched God’s vision for my life, and I’ve had to remind myself to surrender to His purpose, not insist on mine.

As I’ve looked at things not of God that use the rainbow as a symbol, I have found something to be completely ironic.

The Gay Pride flag is a rainbow. I pondered this last night, and wondered if that was done by intent, or completely by accident?

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If by accident, it could very well serve as a reminder that we are all, ALL, covered by God’s promise to never flood the earth again. But, Biblical history also shows us that at the time God flooded the earth, homosexuality was rampant. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed as homosexuality was practiced. I don’t believe, personally, it was homosexuality itself that caused God to destroy those cities. It was the heart condition that serving and elevating self  caused.

 

Was the rainbow chosen to dig at Christians, as a source of irritation? I have heard many gay people say they just want to be accepted, but in action, they very often say hateful things about Christians and Christianity.

It seems to me, the heart of this movement might not be just acceptance and peacefully co-existing. It looks very much like they might be thumbing their noses at Christians and the promise of our God. Regardless their flag serves as a reminder to us all that God honors His promises, even if there are attempts to provoke Him.

“The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion.” Numbers 14:18

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.”

Colossians 3:12:14“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32